Doug Ford met with chorus of boos at Collision conference amid string of tech funding cuts
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was met with a chorus of boos and sparse applause as he took the stage at the Collision tech conference in Toronto on Tuesday — the same day that news broke that the province slashed $24 million in artificial intelligence research.
"Thank you for the warm welcome, my friends," Ford said after being introduced by the conference's co-host, Sunil Sharma.
Ford appeared at the conference one day after Prime Minister Trudeau made the case to attendees Monday evening that Canada has immigration to thank for its thriving technology sector. The four-day conference is being held in Canada for the first time and is set to take place in Ontario for the next three years.
"If you want to expand, if you want to grow and you want to prosper and thrive, the likes of which you've never seen before, come to Ontario, invest in Ontario," Ford said in closing. "Thank you and God bless each and every one of you."
Tories look to eliminate $11.7B-deficit
As part of his appeal, Ford cited "44 leading colleges and universities that produce more than 50,000 STEM graduates each year" and curricula that go "back to the basics" with a focus on math and science.
Ford's comments come as the Tories are trying to eliminate an $11.7-billion deficit with cuts across a series of industries.
Among the cuts are:
A spokeswoman for the economic development minister said the government's understanding is that the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine "will continue to do great work for the sector with private industry funding."
'Dragging Ontario backwards'
"We have to find small efficiencies across the board," Ford said Tuesday. "It's not sustainable."
The head of the Vector Institute said the organization has a "strong and productive" working relationship with the province.
"Ontario is unequivocally a top destination in the world for the best talent and companies pursuing AI and the Vector Institute will continue to work with the province to help maintain Ontario's leadership position," president and CEO Garth Gibson said in a statement.
The NDP's employment, research and innovation critic said cutting AI funding is short-sighted.
"Instead of preparing our province for the economy of the future, Ford and his Conservatives are dragging Ontario backwards by ripping away resources that support innovation and job creation," Catherine Fife said in a statement.